Students march for school funds

Baltimore Algebra Project supporters protest plan for cuts

October 18, 2007|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN REPORTER

Chanting their familiar refrain, "No education, no life," an estimated 300 city students and supporters met at City Hall and marched along downtown streets yesterday demanding that the governor pay the school system $800 million from a court decision.

Under the leadership of the Baltimore Algebra Project, the protesters demanded funding to comply with a 2004 ruling that said the city schools had been unlawfully underfunded by $400 million to $800 million since 2000.

The Baltimore Algebra Project, a student-run tutoring group, had planned the protest for weeks. Members had threatened to clog up the streets at rush hour, but there was no major disruption of traffic and no one was arrested.

The protest was one in a series organized by Algebra Project students in recent years, including several demonstrations last year protesting the closing of school buildings because of declining enrollment.

Group members want class sizes limited to 20 students, which would mean less extra space.

"We're fighting for what is owed us," said Algebra Project member Charles Waters, a junior at City College. "Today is beautiful. We run nonviolent rallies trying to get what we deserve."

Students said the money could be used to help reduce class sizes, create job opportunities for youths and repair some of the system's dilapidated buildings.

The court case, Bradford v. Maryland, was filed more than a decade ago by parents represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and joined by the city and the city school board.

Yesterday, protesters carried dozens of signs reading, `We don't want your pity, we want funding for our city,' while handing out literature calling for Gov. Martin O'Malley to reverse his proposal to curb funding increases for Maryland schools.

As part of his plan to close the state's budget shortfall, O'Malley is proposing to reduce the amount of future aid to schools that is required under a landmark 2002 law that increased education spending by $2 billion over five years.

The so-called Thornton law requires increases for inflation each year after this school year, the final of the five years.

The governor favors not funding those inflation increases for two years, an action that would require the legislature to reopen the law. The move would save the state about $400 million over two years.

"We've come to the conclusion that he doesn't care about us," said Ryan Mason, a freshman at Baltimore Community College and a recent graduate of Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School.

brent.jones@baltsun.com

For more on the Algebra Project, read The Sun education blog at www.baltimoresun.com/classroom.

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